No criminal charges against owners of illegal weapons if surrendered to police now

Some  of the illegal weapons police confiscated from previous raids and some smuggled as personal effects on display during the amnesty 2015 launch yesterday

BY Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA: MONDAY 02 NOVEMBER 2015: One of the conditions of the Firearm Amnesty Programme (FAP) 2015 launched today is for owners of any illegal guns to surrender their weapons to police and that no criminal charges will be filed against them.

“There will be no criminal penalties for relinquishing your guns, ammunition or explosives and no questions asked,” said Police Commissioner Egon Keil during the launching of the 2 months long amnesty programme.

After 31 December, police will once again enforce the law on firearms. The FAP 2015 has only been activated 3 times and the last time was 2006.

“Nothing was really documented but this time, it will be different,” said Commissioner Keil.

The Ministry of Police has taken a step further to secure the safety of Samoa by appealing to gun owners to register their guns or hand over any illegal weapons to the police to be destroyed.

Since the start of the programme, six people have voluntarily handed in their guns either to be registered or destroyed.

“We strongly believe this programme not only minimize gun incidents but also save lives, and that is the true value of this programme,” said Commissioner Keil.

He emphasized that the programme is not about arresting anyone but it’s about the safety of the community.

As part of the programme, gun owners are encouraged to renew their licenses in owning a forearm.

Anyone applying for a gun permit goes through training and has to pass an exam before a permit or license is issued on the safe handling and keep of the firearm.

Police Commissioner Egon Keil and Assistant Commissioner Afamasaga Soonalole inspecting some of the firearms

Police Commissioner Egon Keil and Assistant Commissioner Afamasaga Soonalole inspecting some of the firearms

Keil said all guns should considered loaded and that people should be mindful when handling and transporting firearms to a police station.

He also advised the public who could not bring their guns into the office to call in and a police officer will retrieve the weapons from them.

“All firearms will be receipted, photographed and documented,” he said.

The Acting Prime Minister Lautafi Tio Selafi Purcell acknowledged the call by the Ministry and called on the public to support and work together with the Ministry.

He emphasized the need for gun owners to understand the responsibility of owning a firearm and to prioritize the safe keeping of guns from the reach of children.

He also emphasized the role play by police in policing the borders especially Samoa ports as the avenue for the illegal weapons into the country.

“Whilst the Government want goods from container ships to be cleared out as soon as the ship docks, this however has created problems because some of the alleged illegal weapons are hidden inside these goods,” said Lautafi.

Destroying of illegal weapons
After the launching of the FAP 2015, police then showcased weapons that were confiscated from raids, and those smuggled through the ports and from individuals before destroying them.

Some of the weapons include silencer guns, machine guns, long riffle sniper guns and a variety of pistols.

These are the weapons confiscated since 2007 until now, and the condition of some of the weapons were deteriorating.

The Ministry’s firearm expert Tagaloasa Todd Stanley and Inspector Norman then demonstrated how the weapons would be destroyed using an Easy Cutter machine donated by the Australian Federal Police.

The Acting Prime Minister Lautafi, and the Associate Minister and some of the members of the public then watched while the weapons were destroyed one by one.

Some of the illegal firearms police say will be destroyed

Some of the illegal firearms police say will be destroyed